Greetings! Happy Summer.

It’s nearly officially Summer and while the students are at recess, there’s so much happening. The physical structure of our high school continues to progress as does the district’s core business of INSPIRING and EMPOWERING students. That’s not just words on a page, but truly something at the forefront of our minds.

At the start of the 2018-19 school year, after what will seem like an endless summer, Olmsted Falls High School will be transformed; as will the experiences of our students. While the high school is certainly undergoing a physical metamorphosis that has our community excited, how we operate as an organization will begin to alter as well–from a K-12 perspective.

The district recently completed our Portrait of an Olmsted Graduate work, but the most important work and questions remain:

  • What does inspire and empower look like when it is done at a high level in ALL grades?
  • How might the alterations to the physical plant begin to build upon the high quality experiences that have brought countless families to the Olmsted Communities?
  • When considering the skills and dispositions contained within the Portrait of the Olmsted Graduate, what begins to change within the instructional environment?

Locally we are focused, strategic and driven.

The skills that have been identified by our community of stakeholders are not only for our high school students. These skills will serve as a K-12 rally point for our work. We will continue to build upon our excellence–K-12, we will ask ourselves what are the contributions of the ECC, Falls-Lenox, OFIS, OFMS and OFHS staff, students, parents and community along our road to excellence. We will do this, yet the system doesn’t require us to; nor does it even support our efforts.

As a public school district in the State of Ohio we are faced with this–we have an antiquated school accountability model that is embedded, ingrained, tied, tattooed, legislated and inextricably woven into the very fabric of Ohio’s Code (both Revised & Administrative) that governs our day-to-day business; yet our public and business community  (and I’d argue the general public/business community well beyond our district) does not want what’s been offered. Our results at the local level articulate this as does the public opinion from PDK’s most recent poll on public schools. It will take a collective community effort to lead the change…all of us…parents, students, educators, citizens…all of us. It needs to be a collective, “our kids deserve better!”

Rather than answering questions such as,

  • What are the aspirations and dreams that our community has for our youth;

  • Do we have a statewide, unified vision for creating a 21st century educational system for our youth?” (questions beyond local level discourse);

–both posed by Karen Garza at a recent presentation at a Battelle for Kids, Success for All Conference (those below are mine)

  • How do we assist our students with the mental health issues that they endure from the crazy system of schooling that we’ve imposed on them; and

  • Make you own list with the space that’s provided…___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

…Ohio is fiddling around with answering small-big problems such as–test-based graduation requirements; should there be a summative State Report Card Grade; ODE’s Strategic Plan and so on. Rather than focusing on THE problem, the focus of our State remains on the symptoms.

On a day like today, I’m inspired and frustrated at the same time and that is how public education works much of the time.

-see you on Sunday (Browns fans will understand)

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We Believe…

As the political race for Ohio Governor heats up and people begin to jockey for political leverage, keep in mind that public education is the key to a solid economy and future for our state.

Through a partnership with the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and support from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, listed below are a statement of purpose and set of beliefs that a representative group of urban, rural and suburban Ohio School Superintendents put together. This represents the third iteration of these statements that have been continually molded based on feedback from parents, students and a multitude of other educational stakeholders. It consists of a collection of firm statements as to what the state of education should be in Ohio from those closest to the work, and those impacted by it the most. Regardless of political party, ask your elected officials, or those that aspire to be–where do you stand…what have you done…and/or what may you do to help support these conditions for the students in Ohio.

~Jim

 

Statement of Purpose In partnership with their local communities, strong public schools educate ALL students to achieve individual success so they can become contributing citizens.
Belief 1 We believe in valuing diversity and are committed to the success of ALL students.
Belief 2 We believe in providing educational experiences that result in ALL students understanding that they are part of a broader community and, as such, have roles and responsibilities to each other.
Belief 3 We believe in establishing trust and collaboration among ALL stakeholders who are responsible for educating the students within our local communities.  
Belief 4 We believe students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities.
Belief 5 We believe that student assessment is most effective when it engages the learner to increase the quality of the work and when results arrive in time to help improve teaching and learning.
Belief 6 We believe that a school’s and district’s performance are best and most accurately determined through multiple measures that are consistent, concise and clearly understood at the local level.
Belief 7 We believe that the local community members (parents, students, educators, school board members and superintendents) must be involved in the development of educational policy for Ohio’s Public Schools.
Belief 8 We believe that a quality educational experience addresses the social, emotional, and intellectual development and well-being of ALL students.

 

 

Reflections on March 14, 2018

Today is March 14th, 2018…it is the one month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida tragedy. I am not an attorney nor do I have the desire to be one, however from time to time my job requires that I behave like one at work.  Today was a day where many students exercised their First Amendment Rights in some way, shape or form throughout our Nation and here in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. Students, today is a day that you will likely read about in a history book. Just how the day unfolded for students varied from state to state and district to district. For instance, some school districts gave students carte blanche and in other instances their right of expression was limited.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District is THE case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 related to student speech rights. Here’s a quick synopsis of the case–In 1965 a small group of students in a very large school district in Iowa wore armbands as a symbolic protest of the Vietnam War and they were disciplined by the school district because the district believed that the armbands would “materially and substantially interfere” with the operation of the school. After numerous appeals, four years later the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students (a 7-2 vote). You can read the court’s opinion here . Essentially the Supreme Court ruled that the district gave students discipline because of a fear of a possible disruption rather than any actual interference. The school disciplined the students for what might have happened  before it actually happened. While the court’s decision was about symbolic free speech, the court indicated the symbol was “akin to pure speech” and was therefore protected. In short, a student’s right to free speech (even when expressed in the form of an armband and peace symbol) can’t be limited because of a fear of disruption to education, but it can be limited when the speech is in fact disruptive to education.

While students do have Free Speech rights under the Constitution, those rights are not unlimited. They aren’t as broad as they might be for an adult functioning in everyday society. In short, the right of expression for the individual ends when normal school functions are impacted. Who determines if normal school functions are impacted? The school administration.

I am writing to provide some perspective…in fact, my perspective. As the superintendent there are decisions that I make that are easy and fun. People like them because they fully agree. In other instances I have to make a decision that some disagree with. It comes with the territory and I accept full responsibility for my decisions. Our district took a very middle of the road and conservative approach to the first National Student Walkout.

Here Is What We Permitted

While one could make a very convincing argument that a student walkout was indeed a disruption to education, Olmsted Falls Schools did not take this approach.

  • We permitted students to leave their classrooms and we did not discipline them for doing so.
  • Some students spoke, signed a banner to remember the lost lives from Parkland, FL and others wrote a letter to their politicians. School was disrupted for approximately 20 minutes.

Here Is What We Did Not Permit

  • We did not permit the creation of a forum for gun control.
  • Students were not permitted to distribute fliers during the school day within the school to advertise the student walkout.
  • Students were not permitted to hold signs with a symbol of a gun (even if the symbol said “no guns.”).
  • Students were not permitted to display banners within the building that said anything pertaining to gun control.       

While I have my own personal views on the issues being debated at the National level when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, I am not permitting a forum to be established within our school district regardless of where an individual stands on the issue (including where I might stand). If I permit a forum, that forum opens for those opposed and for the issue, and it creates the potential for other issues to have a forum.

Today, my goal was to keep students safe and maintain an orderly environment. Each school district community handled today’s events in their own way and while some may disagree with our conservative plan, it got the job done–students spoke their minds, kids were safe, the environment was orderly and the learning resumed.  I was very proud of the way in which our students and staff conducted themselves today and you should be too. They were safe, respectful and responsible. I sincerely appreciate the ongoing support we have received by our Police Department. Every time we’ve needed additional support, they have delivered.

On March 21 at 7:00 in the High School Auditorium we will have a community forum to talk about school safety in Olmsted Falls Schools. During that time we will provide attendees with an update as to what we’ve done to maintain a safe environment and what we are going to do in order to make it safer. We will talk about the physical plant, our personnel, student mental health and how the most preventative measure as it relates to school violence is connecting kids–to one another and to the adults. Keeping schools and students safe is complex. It takes significant cooperation between school, home and community.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Jim Lloyd, Superintendent

Student Protests/Walkouts

I have worked as an educator within public schools for 24 years and unfortunately have witnessed the evolution of school safety that has occurred due to the violence and murder of our children. After each destructive episode, we gathered the school people and first responders to review our processes and procedures to ensure our protocols are updated. Many school communities have conducted forums on school safety and we will do the same. We will be providing our community with a communication forum on school safety in order to let them know what we’ve done and how will continue to improve. That meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. on March 21st in the High School Auditorium.

The most recent school tragedy that occurred on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, FL, feels different from the others. Perhaps we are at a societal tipping point or a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have empowered other students because they’ve been so inspirational in the face of this horrific tragedy.  The Parkland incident has inspired many students across the Nation to take a stand or weigh in on school safety, mental health supports and gun control. School districts across the Nation are handling this situation in various ways.

The issue of student protests is a legal one and the Federal and Supreme courts have provided rulings on the First Amendment Rights of students (see Tinker v. Des Moines). In order to be clear with our parents and community, I wanted to provide you with some information.

  1. While some districts have taken an active role in organizing a protest or walkout for their students, our school district has elected a different approach. We believe that supporting or facilitating a walkout would create a forum for such activities and while many are supportive of the basic tenets that have led to this National movement, the potential exists for other issues to surface that may be more controversial or divisive. We believe that if the school district would support one cause, it would be forced to take a definitive position or create a forum for others. As a result, we have elected to support our students’ Constitutional Rights–the rights of those who choose to participate and those that choose not to participate. ALL students will be supervised and kept safe.
  2. Students have constitutional rights and are permitted to exercise them so long as they do not interfere with school activities, or make a disturbance. We will support their constitutional rights.
  3. The administration has spoken with several students regarding walkout intentions. If students are unclear as to what the district’s and building principal’s position is, we encourage them to schedule an appointment and work with their building principal in order to gain clarity on the expectations. We want to support our students.
  4. Our understanding is that the high school students are looking to organize on a date in April due to the anniversary of the Columbine Tragedy. Some middle school students are discussing a walkout on March 14.
  5. With the assistance of our safety forces, the building administration and staff will be prepared for any walkout/protest that might occur in the interior or exterior of the building. Student safety is our number one priority.
  6. The district is not encouraging a walkout and at the same time we are not permitted to prevent one should the students decide to engage in one.  We are listening to students and if they decide to exercise their Constitutional Rights at school, our job will be to keep them safe and maintain order. Any student walkout will not be open to the public or the news media.
  7. So long as students are not making a disturbance, being disorderly or behaving inappropriately, students will not be disciplined. Students are not permitted to leave the school grounds. Simply put, those that do will be in trouble.
  8. Should a student walkout/protest occur, we will keep students safe and they will be escorted back into the building after it concludes (if they choose to walk outside).
  9. While the administration cannot physically prevent a walkout or protest from occurring, they have the discretion to determine when it is disruptive and if it interferes with the instructional environment.

Over the course of the past week I’ve spoken to parents who have been outspoken of my position on this issue. There are those that wish we would do more and those that would like us to do less. My approach is a moderate one and one with an emphasis on keeping students safe and maintaining an orderly instructional environment.

Never before have I seen young people this impacted and aware. Our students care and they want a voice in this matter. While there are structures that I must adhere to, I feel a duty to support them and to listen. As a school community we will continue to explore ways to make our learning environments safer and support the mental health needs of our kids.

Thanks for your consideration.

Dr. Jim Lloyd, Superintendent for the Olmsted Falls City School District

 

 

 

Contact Your Elected Officials and Oppose Ohio House Bill 512

March 5, 2018

Dear Chairman Blessing, III; Vice Chair Reineke, Rep. Faber, Rep. Ginter, Rep. Greenspan, Rep. McColley, Rep. Pelanda, Rep. Seitz, Rep. Smith, Rep. Clyde, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Kennedy-Kent and Rep. Sweeney,

 

My name is Dr. Jim Lloyd and I am the superintendent for the Olmsted Falls City School District which is located in southwestern Cuyahoga County.  Unfortunately I am unable to be physically present at the scheduled hearing for proposed Ohio House Bill 512. I write to you with significant, fundamental concerns related to the contents of this bill.

Fundamental to our great country’s government operations is the concept of the separation of power. While our founding fathers recognized that concentrated power would have had an impact on our country’s ability to act quickly, they had some  very poor experiences working with a particular individual from a foreign land who operated quickly in an arbitrary and capricious manner. These actions led to a revolution and the founding of a country. While tempting, concentrating power into a single person’s hands for the sake of operating efficiently has never been a good idea. Government should be limited, not emboldened and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Ohio House Bill 512 transfers nearly all of the duties and authority of the State Board of Education and the superintendent of public instruction into a new state agency with far too much power. Doing so removes the avenues that are currently in place to allow for input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, schools, school districts, superintendents and local school board members. While it may appear to create a system that may be more efficient, it abandons the fundamental principles of representative government. Moreover, it further exacerbates the concern that educational decisions will be be politically motivated with very little public input.  

My fellow superintendents throughout the State of Ohio have been strongly advocating for greater local control for quite some time; indeed Ohio’s citizens have voiced a desire to have government remove itself from the day to day operation of public schools as evidenced by surveys that my district has conducted with our public, and those that the Ohio Department of Education has as well.  While we recognize the need for a baseline of symmetry and structure within Ohio’s public education system, we believe that leadership at the local level understands the system’s needs best, and should therefore have the flexibility to operate accordingly. When the group of superintendents and Ohio Senator Huffman made significant progress with proposed Ohio Senate Bill 216, it encouraged those of us at the local level that we were indeed being heard. House Bill 512 represents a significant step backwards. It is the opposite of deregulation and represents the creation of a very powerful government controlled position.   

Ultimately public schools (and public universities) do not need government to assume control for us, or of us. We need the Ohio General Assembly to engage us, empower us, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with us. Finally, once that vision has been set, we need them to get out of the way so that the people who have been hired to implement can indeed do just that. While some would criticize the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio State School Board (and I have been personally outspoken); the nearly powerless system within which both groups operate is a structure that has been in place for a while.  The Ohio General Assembly and the Governor’s office have controlled public education in Ohio for over two decades by creating accountability laws and piling on more standardized tests. We’ve been given test-based accountability, a broken high school graduation system, a failed funding model and a host of other things that simply have not worked. Trusting full educational power and decision making to a group that does not have a very good track record of making good decisions about educational policy is a very bad idea.

Students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities. We need limited government, not more government. Proposed Ohio House Bill 512 completely violates this principle.      

Respectfully Submitted,
Dr. Jim Lloyd, Superintendent

Olmsted Falls City School District

PART 2–Proposed Ohio House Bill Would Merge Systems: How it IS NOT political and why it is a bad idea

A group of people held a press conference and announced a plan to have government control of Ohio’s K-12 public schools, public universities and workforce systems. This link will take you to a video of the press conference. After watching the video you’ll have the choice to:

Collapse, Share or Buy DVD. I chose Collapse with the hope that it would make the idea disintegrate, collapse it entirely or make it simply go away…it didn’t work.

This is Part 2.

Before you answer the questions I’m about to pose with any degree of confidence, I would ask that you reflect on your answer for a moment.

Do you believe that the public school’s job and primary purpose is to “prepare the workforce for tomorrow?”

Do you believe that it is the state or federal government’s job to help students find their interests?

Should public schools help students explore, discover and illuminate potential career pathways? Absolutely yes they should, but does the mission stop there? Is our primary goal to simply be part of the “human capital” conveyor belt? Are we just preparing kids for jobs or is there more? The answer to that question is another “YES…there’s more.” While the public schools have a definite preparation role to play as it relates to the Nation’s workforce, that is not the core purpose of public education.  

Consider This

In the Fall of 2017 a group of public school superintendents from around Ohio were chosen with assistance from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. Members were strategically selected in order to represent all parts of Ohio (urban, rural and suburban). The group was formed because many of the top school district leaders felt that Ohio’s educational policies and laws were not grounded in a solid foundation, but rather were formulated due to political interests. That coupled with the fact that Ohio did not have a clearly stated mission and vision made the conditions right to have these important components be generated from a grass roots level.

The superintendents took part in a two day think tank to discuss the purpose of public education and sought to create a set of beliefs. The first generation Statement of Purpose and Beliefs were created and then vetted through a survey. The survey was sent to all Ohio Public School Superintendents, other school administrators and it was open to community members at the local school districts. The vetting purpose was simple–get feedback and another set of eyes on that which was created and seek to use the opinions of others to reshape the first generation version. Feedback was generated by survey respondents indicating whether they could: a) Fully support the statement; b) Partially support the statement; c) Minimally support the statement or d) Cannot support the statement.  A summary of that feedback can be found here. Respondents were also able to offer narrative feedback as well. These responses were grouped and coded based on themes.

In December of 2017, the group was reconvened to reflect on the broad feedback and tasked with making revisions to the original statement of purpose and set of beliefs. The second generation of the Statement of Purpose and Beliefs can be viewed here. While the document needs some additional work, it does provide a more definitive direction for Ohio’s public schools based on feedback from a broad group of stakeholders from a grassroots level. The statement that should resonate the most is–

Students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities.  

While I’ve been very critical of the Ohio Department of Education, they did run the gauntlet and gather feedback from over 15,000 people on what Ohio citizens wanted from public education and the answer was not, “let Columbus control it more.” One of the main themes that resonated within that feedback was–more local control. The survey that was used by the superintendent group to generate feedback had a very similar theme–less government and more local control.

If you’re a school superintendent and you want to endorse a complete government plan to take control of Ohio’s Public Education and Public University System, then shame on you. That’s lazy. Engage your local community, your teachers, administrators, parents, students, business and local universities and determine the skills and dispositions you want from your high school or college graduates. Don’t advocate for turning it over to the government so that they can do it for you.

This crazy unification plot overlooks a great deal about the role and purpose of public education–which brings me to the core of this section. Our job as superintendents is to engage our locally elected school board and a great number of others, to create and  define our vision and mission. While we have confines that we’re required to operate within (e.g. state standards, research on the most effective instructional methodologies, and so on), when it comes to the vision for public education, our allegiance is to students and to our local communities. Our obligation is to provide an environment that extends far beyond, “get ‘em ready for a job.”

In Olmsted Falls our mission is to Inspire and Empower students. We believe (and our community fully supports this…the same community that provides 66% of the resources to our fund our schools) that we should: illuminate and allow students to explore things that will allow them to choose a pathway…not a track…a path; develop skills to have options in life; teach the whole child; teach the love of exploration; teach self-awareness; help them develop autonomy; provide opportunities to develop a sense of service and belonging; teach students to set goals and fearlessly pursue them; help them learn to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative; and of course teach them to read, write and calculate.

Ultimately public schools (and dare I say public universities) do not need government to assume control for us. We need the Ohio General Assembly to engage us, empower us, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with us. Finally, once the vision has been set, we need them to get out of the way so that people can implement.  The Ohio General Assembly and Governor’s Office have controlled public education in Ohio for over two decades by creating accountability laws and selling their souls to standardized tests. They’ve brought you test-based accountability, a high school graduation system that is broken, a failed funding system and a host of other things that simply have not worked. We need elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, who are willing to collaborate with those at the local level in order to untie Ohio’s educational Gordian Knot.  

Public education’s mission (PreK through — Bachelor’s of ______) is so much more than prepping a person for a job. If someone is telling you that it’s as simple as getting them ready to work, then perhaps they need to consider another line of work or simply stay in their lane.

 

PART 1–Proposed Ohio House Bill Would Merge Systems: How it IS political and why it is a bad idea

A group of people held a press conference and announced a plan to have government control Ohio’s K-12 public schools, public universities and workforce systems. This link will take you to a video of the press conference. After watching the video you’ll have the choice to:

Collapse, Share or Buy DVD. I chose Collapse with the hope that it would make the idea disintegrate, collapse it entirely or make it simply go away…it didn’t work.

This proposal concerns me as a public school superintendent and Ohio Citizen for many reasons. Philosophically I believe in limited government control which probably puts me on the conservative side, however we’re all connected and people deserve a “heart” and a “hand”  so I generally fall within the moderate political range. This blog will have 2 parts. One that IS and one that IS NOT political. Regardless of the version, this plan IS completely foolish from both perspectives.

Part 1: How IS This Political and Why is it a bad idea?

While I’m not really certain how it occurred or when it transpired, but those holding the majority thought it acceptable to abandon their roots, take off their gloves and sink their claws deep into public education. Today they must have grown a 3rd arm and another hand for claws because Workforce Development is getting the Wolverine treatment as well.

Apparently limited government control is philosophically embraced for subjects such as tax structures, finance, business development and so on, however for whatever reason, public education has remained fair game. For some time now, superintendents, local school boards and citizens in Ohio have clearly said they want local autonomy, yet some of Ohio’s Representatives fail to hear them (or should it be, care to hear them).

In Ohio, we have a government controlled public education system. While some of the State School Board Members are elected, there are some that hold political office in this state that are elected by you who do not want you to be able to choose who should represent your interests and the interests of your region as it relates to public education. They would rather have public education be controlled by the Ohio General Assembly or have it now be centrally controlled by some Super Group that they are putting together.

Examples of government control by a party (of which I am a member, although I’m not even really sure what that means these days) are hidden in plain sight. For instance, the Governor’s Office appoints some Ohio State School Board members; the Governor writes policy into budget bills that specifically directs Ohio’s schools, and most recently, a group of people (none of whom are actually in charge of running the organizations they are seeking to take over or have experience in how they operate–the Ohio Dept. of Education; the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Department of Jobs & Family Services) want to create a SUPER bureaucracy to oversee the 3 offices. Let’s be honest…this is a take over. 

If you care about government overreach (and you should), I would encourage you to watch this news conference. The representative speaking actually used the phrase–“crib to career.” One of the superintendents in the video, who does not speak for those that I know in my position, said, “no longer are we in a position to graduate our students, wish them well and hope they go out and discover their passion…it’s our responsibility to make sure our students have a successful transition.” You’re DANG right…that’s been our job for a while and my school district (and we’re not an anomaly) does not need the Ohio General Assembly to neuter the 3 organizations that help to provide that support and pay them to still walk around like they’re still real and relevant to us.

If you want to help students discover their passions and assist with their successful transition from high school, then engage your community and put the structures in place to help them dream, think, explore, discover and explore some more.  Don’t rely on government and the Ohio House of Representatives to create a plan to merge 3 organizations into one and then continue to use your tax dollars to keep everyone stay afloat. There is so much to fix with K-12 education– accountability, school funding, College Credit Plus, creating more formidable higher ed pathways that lead to jobs…why are you creating new problems?  

Proposed Ohio Senate Bill 216 demonstrated how a collaborative effort between Ohio’s elected officials and those leading school districts at the local level can work. While some things still need ironed out, its purpose was to deregulate and provide more local control. This proposed unification plot is an uninformed and unparalleled political takeover of Ohio’s educational system. It doesn’t distribute the power, the decision making, and it certainly doesn’t improve the outcomes for Ohio’s students.    

Ask yourself, will the proposed bill by the Ohio House that seeks to take control of Ohio’s Pre-16 educational system and workforce provide more local control or less local control?  The answer is pretty clear (LESS!) and what will result is a person with a tremendous amount of power over a great many people; the power to completely politicize our educational system under the banner of “workforce ready.”

Should the state and federal government work collaboratively with business to determine what skills and dispositions could strengthen our workforce and make us more globally competitive? They should. Is it government’s job to direct the K-12 and University education systems in order to plug gaps in the current workforce? It is not. Is it the government’s role to say, “we need 30 mechanical engineers, 7 writers, 20 CNC machinists,  10 baristas and 4 ditch diggers (because Judge Smails said the world would always need them)? Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter what political party you like to call home. While this idea of unification seems to be coming from a particular political party, this isn’t about party affiliation. A bad idea is a bad idea and when the genesis of it  comes from the political party that beats the “less government” drum, it is disturbing at best.

Ohio deserves more from its elected officials and it certainly deserves better.

~more to come